5 tangible tips for organizing a temporary playground in your neighborhood

City kids need places to play outside, but many neighborhoods don’t have access to parks or playgrounds. This is where popups come into play. And if you’ve ever wanted to host your own, read on.

Non-profit pop-up adventure Play and play:groundNYC has just created a comprehensive toolkit that outlines everything you need to know about managing your first pop-up playground, whether it’s a set of cardboard tunnels on an open street or a street corner. painting in the park. Supported by The Lego Foundation and ChangeX, which matches nonprofits with people who want to host an event in their neighborhood, the toolkit focuses on New York City, but most of the advice could easily be applied. all over the world.

Decades of research have shown that unstructured game it can boost problem solving, reduce aggression, and improve self-discipline. In underserved neighborhoods, temporary playgrounds can also act as temporary public spaces for children and parents alike. But organizing a popup can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. If you’d like to give it a try (and secure $500 to help you set up the popup), you can apply here. In the meantime, here’s an overview to get you started.

[Photo: Atlantic Terminal Mall/Brooklyn Bridge Parents]

How to choose a site

Cities are full of potential spaces to play: parks, beaches, that vacant lot near your house, your local library, or even the nearby church. Some of those places need permits; for example, for New York City parks, a special event permit It costs $25 and takes 20-30 days to process. Others need permission: “In any given space, you need to find out who owns it, so you can politely ask if you can use it,” says Suzanna Law, who co-founded Pop-Up Adventure Play in 2010 with Morgan Leichter-Saxby.

To get around permits, you can also team up with pre-existing events: the farmers market, a block party, a music festival, or even business improvement districts that may already have a neighborhood program. Ultimately, it depends on how big an event you want to host and how many kids you envision joining, but according to Zoé Fortin, executive director of play:groundNYC, around 500 square feet is usually enough. Just don’t forget bathroom access and get some chairs from a nearby restaurant so parents have a place to sit!

[Photo: courtesy play:groundNYC]

How to get cheap materials

Once you have a site, you will need materials for the children to play with. New York City is home to countless recycling organizations like Big Reuse, donateNYC, and Material for the Arts. In Los Angeles, there’s the rediscover the center. Norfolk, Virginia, has the Creative Reuse Center. If you can’t find a dedicated organization, Leichter-Saxby suggests calling municipal garbage collectors, getting spare tires from a local mechanic, seeing if a carpet store has any unwanted samples, or checking moving companies for cardboard boxes. “We encourage people to be brave and make those phone calls,” she says.

[Photo: Atlantic Terminal Mall/Brooklyn Bridge Parents]

In New York City, curbside garbage collection can also produce surprising results. Find out what recycling days are in your neighborhood and go on a scavenger hunt. If all else fails, you can always ask parents to bring any toys they want to donate, or partner with a school that can host a “recycling week” to source materials for the event.

[Photo: Atlantic Terminal Mall/Brooklyn Bridge Parents]

How to gather support

Emerging gambling comes with inherent risks. This is not a fenced-in playground with traditional slides and swings, so you may need to educate people about the importance of free play and get support. The toolkit emphasizes the difference between risks (exposure to danger that a child may or may not choose to be involved in) and hazards (the possibility of harm that a child may not foresee, such as a rotten ladder). Risks can be healthy, but make sure you are aware of potential dangers and constantly monitor them.

When it comes to his team, Fortin says play:groundNYC has two experienced workers at all times; but for inexperienced people, he recommends recruiting 2-3 volunteers in addition to the organizer. To get the word out, you can put up flyers, post on social media, or have the organization you’re partnering with announce it in a newsletter.

[Photo: courtesy play:groundNYC]

How to organize the popup in the day

Popups typically last 2-3 hours, but you need to set everything up before the kids arrive. Start with fun signs. You can create a hashtag and have parents post their own photos of the event. (And if photo consent is required, depending on your permission, signs can be a good place to communicate it.)

[Photo: courtesy play:groundNYC]

Whatever you do, make it fun and keep it casual. You can build a tower or tunnel out of empty crates waiting to be knocked down, or cover it with cloth to make a fort. You may want to leave out some paints and brushes so the children can choose their own activities. “Sometimes we put a little bit of chalk on it because it feels like a good entry point,” says Fortin. “Sometimes we keep things in our back pocket for when the power starts to go down.”

[Photo: courtesy play:groundNYC]

If you’re in an area with cars nearby, think about how you’re going to protect the space with hard barriers. If not, you can outline the play area with chalk or colored tape. But whatever you do, do not impose any activities on the children. Instead, Fortin suggests that you start interacting with something and wait for it to take notice and naturally join.

[Photo: Atlantic Terminal Mall/Brooklyn Bridge Parents]

How to finish and do it again

The end of a popup can go a million different ways. (If you’re thinking of applying to this particular program, you’ll be encouraged to complete an impact report for ChangeX.) Some children may want to take their creations home, others may want to leave them behind. “Make friends with the recycling company,” says Law.

And maybe next time, you can host a pop-up “playground” for adults, whether it’s at a conference or a team building event. “There’s a misconception that gaming is just for kids, but gaming is for everyone,” says Law. “There just isn’t enough time for us to control and determine the intent of things, and the game is a perfect antidote to that.”

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